Deposition Part 1: 109 pages
I am not going to review the Warlick depositions (parts 1 and 2) line-by-line, instead I will comment on just a few key sections that will help clarify what Warlick was doing (or not doing) that day.
Starting at four o’clock that afternoon, in the first part of Warlick’s 2-part deposition, Warlick is made aware that Dr. Bell, for some unknown reason, had a suspicion that the death was drug-related:
Warlick knew that “O.D.,” as used by Dr. Bell, referred to a drug overdose:
Next, Warlick is thinking about securing evidence in case “this became a situation that needed to be investigated”:
It is worth noting that Warlick was referring to the securing of the body, and not to the securing of the death scene at Graceland. But what did he suspect might happen to the body at Baptist, in the morgue, under guard? At this time Warlick appears to be unsure of a potential “situation that [needs] to be investigated,” even though Elvis Presley has just died and he (Warlick) is the Shelby County ME Investigator. Stands to reason he’d be investigating the death.
Here, Warlick decides that there is some need for an investigation so he heads to Graceland:
Warlick goes on to say that he went to Graceland in a police cruiser along with two detectives, plus Charlie Hodge and Joe Esposito. He also mentions that he intended to “freeze the scene” at Graceland.
Next, we see that Warlick is continuing with his investigation, pursuant to his duties as an Investigator for the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s office:
This is where we run into a few questions. First, if Warlick was investigating the death as he states, in his role as the ME’s Investigator, how do we explain that this investigation amounted not to a room-to-room search, but to a simple visual inspection of anything he might notice in plain view? Second, again applying the notion that Warlick was keeping his eyes open for “anything that I thought would be germane to the investigation,” how do we explain that Warlick did not consider two syringes to be “germane to the investigation”? Think about that. Warlick admittedly is looking for anything, in plain view, that might be relevant to his investigation into a possible suspicious death, and one that might be due to drug use (as suggested by Bell), and yet he ignores not one, but two syringes sitting in open view in the suite. And to make matters worse, the MPD detectives also ignore these syringes. As does the Assistant DAG. What were these people really doing at Graceland that afternoon? Were they there to investigate the death? Or to conduct a “general overview”? Or was there some other reason?
Also, what steps did Warlick take to “freeze the scene”? None. Apparently, in Warlick’s view, if the scene had been cleaned by the household staff (possible evidence tampering), well, nothing we can do about that, let’s just move on. It didn’t occur to Warlick that perhaps there was a reason the bedroom and bathroom had been cleaned up so soon after the death?
Next, we have an Investigator for the Medical Examiner’s office allowing the phrase “medications were kept by a nurse downstairs” to slip right by him:
And to further illustrate Warlick’s investigative effort:
And one more:
Again, think about this: A sudden, perhaps suspicious death, the possibility of drugs being involved, and two syringes discovered, and the ME Investigator asks the deceased man’s doctor if his patient had overdosed or had died from drugs, and when the doctor replies, “I don’t believe so,” the Investigator drops the subject.
Did Warlick take a different approach when he interviewed Ginger Alden? Let’s see:
Did Warlick investigate the pharmacy that Nichopoulos and Henley were operating out of a trailer in the backyard?
So, let’s re-cap:
“Elvis What Happened?” comes out shortly before August 16, 1977. The book presented claims of Elvis’s drug abuse, and certainly every sentient being in Memphis was aware of it. Or most of them, at least.
On the afternoon of August 16, Dr. Bell writes “EP, O.D.? DOA BMH” on a piece of paper. Someone, then, had to have suggested this (the possibility of an overdose) to him.
At approximately four o’clock that afternoon, Dan Warlick is handed the note by Dr. Bell, so Warlick was aware early on that the drug question had come up, though the source is not known.
Warlick goes to Baptist Memorial Hospital first, and then to the death scene at Graceland, and while there he interviews Dr. Nichopoulos. He asks if drugs could have been involved, Nichopoulos says no. Warlick drops the subject.
Warlick interviews Tish Henley who says nothing about drugs except for naming the pills she had given Elvis earlier that morning. However, one of these pills she could not name, and Warlick does not ask anything further about it. A nurse cannot name a pill she gave a patient, and the Medical Examiner’s Investigator says nothing about this. And it didn’t even occur to Warlick to ask her to check her records.
Warlick sees two syringes. He does nothing.
Warlick notes that the bathroom has been cleaned and there are no medications in the room. He does nothing.
Warlick interviews Ginger Alden, and asks nothing about drugs, and nothing about the two syringes.
Warlick is in the presence of Elvis’s family and friends while at Graceland, all of whom know about the drugs, and not one person says anything.
Warlick does not interview Sandy Miller, a nurse who was supposedly present in the upstairs bathroom during the reported resuscitation efforts.
Warlick does not interview Al Strada, reportedly the second person to see the body, and an eyewitness to all the events that afternoon (re: resuscitation, ambulance, Baptist).
Warlick talks to Esposito and Hodge at some point, asks nothing about drugs.
Warlick does not speak with the MFD EMTs, both of whom heard Al Strada say, “We think he OD’d.”
In addition to Warlick, there are three MPD detectives who go to Graceland. Only one takes notes and makes a report. They interview/question no one beyond the same people Warlick interviewed. (And “interview” is a generous word.)
Jerry Stauffer “tags along” with the detectives, but even as Assistant DAG he does not act in any official capacity.
Warlick takes his notes and photos and returns to Baptist where he submits both to Francisco. Francisco does nothing with either.
Francisco tells Warlick to stop the investigation (though Warlick is all over the map as to the meaning of this direction from Francisco).
Elvis had been hospitalized for drug-related issues several times in the years just prior to 1977. Francisco has available to him all of these medical records, and he later states that he did consult these records when attempting to determine cause of death. This is key.
Francisco observes the autopsy, while periodically speaking with Dr. Nick, but is not an active participant.
Francisco announces the cause of death while the autopsy is ongoing.
Later, the Baptist doctors do not agree with Francisco regarding the cause of death but they are directed not to speak about the case.
Francisco is permitted to speak about the case, in his role as SCME, as is pretty much everyone else not associated with Baptist.
After the full toxicology report is submitted, Francisco sticks with the cardiac/heart disease cause of death.
There is no official position on the question of drugs, beyond Francisco, since no one on the “polypharmacy side” is allowed to speak publicly.
And people ask if there was a cover-up…?
For some inexplicable reason Dan Warlick is lionized in the Elvis community, as the end-all source of information pertaining to the death and autopsy, even though it is obvious that he failed spectacularly in his role as an investigator.
Next up, the second part of the Warlick deposition.